PARIS • United States President Donald Trump, under fire at home over Russian connections and abroad over climate change and trade, arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp.
After a bumpy start to ties, both he and French President Emmanuel Macron have incentives to improve relations - Mr Macron hoping to elevate France's role in global affairs, and Mr Trump, seemingly isolated among world leaders, needing a friend overseas.
During the lightning visit, the US leader will be the guest of honour at festivities marking Bastille Day today. He and his host will watch a military parade - featuring 63 planes, 29 helicopters, 241 horses and 3,720 soldiers - and mark 100 years since the US entered World War I.
Upon his arrival yesterday, Mr Trump headed straight to the US ambassador's residence to have lunch with top US military brass before meeting Mr Macron at the Hotel des Invalides, a grand 17th-century complex where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried.
Talks would focus on shared diplomatic and military endeavours, but an Elysee official said Mr Macron would not shy away from trickier issues. Mr Trump has made few friends in Europe with his rejection of the Paris accord on climate change and "America First" trade stance.
Mr Macron's aides said he does not want Mr Trump to feel backed into a corner. "What Emmanuel Macron wants to do is bring Trump back into the circle so that the United States, which remains the world's No. 1 power, is not excluded," French government spokesman Christophe Castaner told BFM TV.
The presidents and their wives would dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.
The Elysee official said the symbolism was clear: "Paris is still Paris." During the US election campaign, Mr Trump declared that a wave of militant attacks showed "France is no longer France", urging the French to get tough on immigration and extremists.
This year's July 14 national day celebrations come a year after a Tunisian man loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) drove a truck into a crowd of revellers in Nice, killing more than 80 people.
A White House official on Tuesday said the two leaders would discuss the civil war in Syria, where ISIS is defending its last major urban stronghold of Raqqa, and counter-terrorism.
For Mr Macron, 39, his country's youngest leader since Napoleon two centuries ago, the visit is a chance to use soft diplomacy to win his 71-year-old guest's confidence and set about influencing US foreign policy, which European leaders say lacks direction.
Mr Manuel Lafont-Rapnouil, an expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said Mr Macron has no choice but to try to build ties with Mr Trump.
"Whatever you think, the United States is still the United States and we need them on lots of issues. You can't just say 'Trump is there so let's wait until he is gone'," he said.
Beyond Syria and the Middle East, Mr Macron is expected to press for more US support to finance a new West African military force to battle Islamic militants in the Sahel, where France wants to wind down its troop presence.
An Elabe poll showed that 59 per cent of the French people approved of Mr Macron's decision to invite Mr Trump for a visit.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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